A little more than 11 years ago, Sue Putman volunteered as a Somerset County resident to help with the Special Olympics Pennsylvania Winter Games that were then being held at Hidden Valley Ski Resort.

Today, she is the Special Olympics Pennsylvania Cross-Country Ski Sport Director, a volunteer position that she loves.

The games will open Monday, with cross-country skiing at the Blue Knob Ski Resort, and Putman is looking forward to seeing the athletes once again.

“You walk into these venues, and you feel like a rock star,” Putman said about the reception she and the others receive from the athletes each year. “They haven’t seen you for a year, so they are excited.”

The cross-country competition will be held in a variety of categories.

The entry-level competition will include events at the 50- and 100-meter levels. The freestyle events include 500-meter, 1-Kilometer, 3K, 5K, 7.5K, and 10K competitions, along with a 4x1K relay.

Putman is happy that the weather will allow the cross-country events to proceed as they would in any Olympic competition.

“We are thrilled to have enough snow on the golf course (at Blue Knob) to have the 5K competition the way it is supposed to be,” Putman said. “Last year, we did not have the snow for the competition.”

After Putman’s first foray into Special Olympics in 1996, she helped with the cross-country award ceremonies the following year. From there, she became competition director for the cross-country games.

As Putman became more involved with the Special Olympics, she realized that while Somerset County helped host the events, the county did not have a cross-country team. She rectified that, and today the team trains on the Putman farm near Bakersville.

“We did not have a Special Olympics team in Somerset County for the winter games, so I thought that we should have something here,” Putman said.

“We train here at my farm, even without any snow. Cross-country skiing is an endurance sport, so when we did not have snow (earlier this winter), we would work out with poles, did some hill bounding, and did some interval training where you run and do sit-ups and other things for training,” she said.

As the director, Putman cannot serve as coach of the Somerset County team in the competition.

Nate Bregstresser of Rockwood is the volunteer coach for this year’s contingent.

The volunteer work with Special Olympics athletes provides many rewards for Putman and the other volunteers.

“Just to see them get better, not just in sports but socially, is special,” Putman said. “I have seen some of them come a long way, from not being able to even have eye-contact to being able to get along with everybody. Special Olympics is a great program.”

Putman said that the reception at Blue Knob is outstanding.

“They treat us really well,” she said of the resort staff. “The staff there is really wonderful to us. They are really excited that we are coming.”

The cross-country competition will end on Tuesday with the awarding of medals.

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